This is the Steel City Blitz Three-Point Stance. Your quick-hitting reference guide to everything you need to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills in this week 14 matchup. The TPS is sponsored by Gryffin the King!
What: Pittsburgh Steelers 11-1 at Buffalo Bills 9-3
Where: Bills Stadium Orchard Park, NY
When: 8pm ET Sunday December 13th 2020
Weather: 35 degrees and cloudy. Winds up to 12mph expected
Line: Bills -2 O/U 48
Last Week: The Steelers dropped their first game of the season losing 23-17 to the Washington Football Team while the Bills beat San Francisco in Arizona by the score of 34-24.
TV: NBC Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analysis), Kathryn Tappen (sideline)
TV Coverage in Your Area: National TV
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley and Missi Matthews on the sidelines.
Head Official: Shawn Smith. This is Smith’s second season as a head official. He oversaw the Steelers’ early season win over Houston at Heinz Field. His crew had just six accepted penalties in that game. Last season however he officiated the Steelers win over the Rams in which there were 23 accepted penalties.
Key Injuries/Game Status (courtesy steelers.com) PIT: CB Joe Haden (Concussion) – Out
LB Robert Spillane (Knee) – Out BUF: S Jaquan Johnson (Ankle) – Out
2020 NFL Ranks:
Total Offense: PIT 7th BUF 8th Passing Offense: PIT 14th BUF 4th Rushing Offense: PIT 29th BUF 23rd
Total Defense: PIT 1st BUF 18th Passing Defense: PIT 1st BUF 20th Rushing Defense: PIT 5th BUF 23rd
AFC North Rankings: Pittsburgh 11-1, Cleveland 9-3, Baltimore 7-5, Cincinnati 2-9-1
This Week in the AFC North: Dallas at Cincinnati 1pm ET, Baltimore at Cleveland (Mon) 815pm ET
What You Need to Know: With one sack the Steelers will set a new all-time streak of 70 straight games with at least one sack… T.J. Watt needs one sack to become just the third player with 13 sacks in three of his first four season. He would join Hall of Famers Derrick Thomas and Reggie White… Pittsburgh is 29-24 all-time on Sunday Night Football. They are 16 and 14 on the road… The Steelers have lost four of their last five SNF games. Prior to that they had won nine in a row. The Bills and Steelers have NEVER met before when both teams had at least nine wins.
Buffalo Bills Names to Know: QB Josh Allen, WR Stefon Diggs, WR Cole Beasley, RB Zach Moss, S Micah Hyde
What’s at Stake: For the WFT, they may be 4-7 but they’re in prime position to win the NFC East so there’s a lot to play for if you’re them. It pains me to say this but if the Steelers were going to lose one game in 2020 this would be it. The Chiefs loss is to Las Vegas, a fellow AFC team. A loss to the WFT would not affect the tie-breaker giving the Steelers the advantage if both teams finished 15-1. The Steelers can clinch a postseason berth with a win or a MIA or LV loss. (Those didn’t happen)
All-Time Series: Steelers lead all-time 16-10. Bills lead in Buffalo 7-6.
Last Meeting: In Pittsburgh December 2019 Bills 17 Steelers 10
Check out the latest Steel City Blitz Steelers Podcast for more on this game.
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Victory:
1. Offensive Overhaul. Anytime you have opposing players saying after a game that they felt like they had a good handle on what the offense was going to do then you have a problem. That came from several WFT players Monday night and it shouldn’t have surprised any of us. As the running game has been ground to a halt, the passing game has been stifled due to predictability and poor execution. We do not yet know if the O-Line shake up we are expecting has come to fruition but regardless, this unit needs to pick it up. It needs to get aggressive and play with a chip on it’s collective shoulder. The return of James Conner will be a major help but if Randy Fichnter hasn’t gotten more creative and less predictable it won’t matter.
2. Linebacker Shuffle. Devin Bush has been gone for some time. Robert Spillane is out with a knee injury. Vince Williams is out due to Covid which leaves only Avery Williamson. He’ll wear the green dot on Sunday night but who is lined up with him on early downs is a mystery. There is some hope that Ulysees Gilbert is ready to be activated. I’m told he performed well in practice this week and didn’t seem to have any issues with his back. While his return would be timely and quite welcome, there are still many questions and concerns. There is no doubt that Buffalo will have already gameplanned to isolate receivers and backs on Williamson so how will Keith Butler respond?
3. Enough With the Drops. Depending on who you talk to, the Steelers have had anywhere from 10-16 drops in the last two games. Ten is way too many as it is and if this continues the Steelers aren’t winning this game and they are going anywhere in the playoffs. Perhaps now that the team has lost there will be less pressure and less anxiety for these young guys. One thing I noticed especially last week was often the receivers were trying to run with the ball before they even caught it. WR Coach Ike HIllard had to have made that a very high topic of conversation all week long. I’m not sure how much longer Mike Tomlin will go with Diontae Johnson or Eric Ebron if the problems persist.
Prediction: When Robert Spillane went out Monday there was a noticeable drop-off to Avery Williamson. Now some of that is his lack of experience in the defense but some of it was also getting beat athletically. When Joe Haden went out with a concussion? The play of the defense dropped off like a massive trench in the ocean. With both guys out this week there is serious pressure on other guys to pick it up. I suspect the Steelers will attempt to pressure Josh Allen who is dealing with a bad knee and ankle. The idea there being that he will make mistakes throwing the ball and the Steelers will want to help accelerate that. Defensively, the Bills are not nearly as strong as they were last season. I think there are opportunities for Ben Roethlisberger and company to make plays. But my concern is the defense. There’s just too much missing and Buffalo is too good on offense not to take advantage. I think it’ll be a good one but we don’t have enough horses this week.
Bills 27 Steelers 23
Season Prediction Record: 10-2